How to Avoid the TOP FIVE Mistakes Hotels Make in Internet Marketing
Internet marketing is an ever-changing science that requires constant research, consistent effort, and multi-faceted knowledge if you plan to gain and maintain a competitive edge in your specific market. Unfortunately, most hospitality businesses do not follow sound IM principals, often resulting in gross errors that cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars.
MISTAKE 1: Failing to understand that USABILITY of a website is more important than its artistic elements. Customers don’t like music, excessive flash, bizarre navigation, websites that need instructions to use, scroll bars that hide text, hard to find contact information, and poor web page layouts that significantly reduce conversion rates.
Best website design practices:
- Use standard layouts on your home page with nice photos, limited flash, and a clean simple presentation. No more than 200 words on the home page.
- Your unique sales proposition should be immediately visible, for example: “Why stay near the beach when you can stay on the beach?”
- Provide the user with well-organized navigation from drop down menus. Utilize no more than seven links on the home page.
- Make clear calls to action (with booking engine displayed) on every page. Calls to action should be large and stand out using color. Display business phone number in upper right corner of website.
- Create well-organized rooms pages that follow the standards set by the major travel websites: photo; description; “book it” format. Don’t get cute here.
- Only use highly quality, professional photography.
Good website usability examples:
Website design mistakes to avoid:
- Your website is acceptable because your customers tell you they “love it.”
- Interfering with your web designer and forcing them to design it “your way.” Remember, websites are for your customers, not your ego.
- Utilizing a local person for the design because it is less expensive. Website usability will suffer if you don’t select a proper hospitality design firm.
- Employing a local person to take your photos. Find a photographer who specializes in hospitality properties. They are worth every penny they charge!
Poor website usability examples:
- www.acehotel.com/portland (Bad navigation structure and poor room layout.)
- www.thejanenyc.com/ (When things stop flying around let me know.)
MISTAKE 2: Focusing on what Internet marketing costs rather than what your return on investment (ROI) is. A sound Internet marketing program will pay for itself.
Best Internet marketing ROI practices:
- Focus on your ROI, not the cost of the IM campaigns. If you spend $1,000 to 2,000 per month and make an additional $5,000 to $10,000 per month, the cost of the Internet marketing strategy is well worth its expense.
- Spend at least $1,000 per month for smaller sized businesses (not including your pay per click budget). Expect to pay $2,000 a month or more on a medium sized business. You will need to pay more in a competitive area.
- Make sure you have a good revenue tracker on your website. Tracking revenue derived from pay per click (PPC) and organic search is the best way to know if your Internet marketing program is working.
- Consider the addition of call tracking to your website to monitor revenue made directly from phone calls.
- Have a real-time, online reservation booking engine on your website that can link to a revenue tracker.
Internet marketing ROI mistakes to avoid:
- Failing to track revenue and focusing on website traffic rather than ROI.
- Hiring your Internet marketing firm because they are cheaper. With IM, you get what you pay for. It takes persistent hard work and time from trained IM specialists to ensure your website is performing well in the search engines.
- Hiring a local Internet marketing “expert” because they are cheaper. Local people often lack expertise in all areas of Internet marketing. They sound like they know what they are doing, but often lack knowledge in key areas.
- Obsessing over ranking high for “trophy terms” (for example, “Los Angeles lodging”) rather than ranking well for a wide range of less competitive terms.
MISTAKE 3: Failing to budget enough for pay per click and link building. PPC and link building are essential for success!
Best PPC and link building practices:
- Make sure a professional trained in PPC management sets up your PPC account. How a PPC account is created can make all the difference in your ROI from PPC. You might be wasting thousands of dollars by guessing on which keywords you want to purchase. Professionals don’t guess.
- Make sure your PPC is monitored on a weekly basis. Bids need constant adjustment. Performance of ads also needs regular monitoring.
- Expect to pay more for PPC in competitive areas. Small businesses should budget at least $500 per month for PPC. Larger business should spend $1,000 or more per month.
- Consider creating special “landing pages” for your PPC to increase the likelihood that a potential customer will make an immediate purchasing decision.
- Consider geo-targeting your PPC if you can afford to do so. Specialized ads that show up in specific areas, at specific times, are a great way to increase your PPC revenue.
- Consistently building links to your website is very important to improve your organic placement in the major search engines. Some links are free and others cost money (links from other lodging sources are prized). Expect to spend money to get quality links. Don’t be tempted to skimp here. Your Internet marketing company should help you choose which links are best in your area. Make sure link building is a prioritized task every single month.
PPC and link building mistakes to avoid:
- Not spending enough on your PPC budget.
- Not monitoring your ROI from PPC ads.
- Being tempted to set up your own PPC account.
- Failing to consistently build links to your website.
MISTAKE 4: Getting distracted by fads and the “latest trends.” It is amazing how much time people spend on social media sites when their own website is lacking basic search engine optimization and has poor design usability.
Best search engine optimization practices:
- Make sure your website has sound search engine optimization (SEO) on all the “money pages.” (Home page, room pages, activities pages, etc.)
- Sound SEO includes: title tags that do not exceed 65 characters in length; unique title tags on each page; well-written H-1 tags (no more than 6 to 8 words in length); keyword repeated once every 150 words within the text. Also, make sure you have solid “deep linking” (linking between website pages using keywords).
- SEO should ONLY be done by a professional! This essential element of Internet marketing is a science and requires highly technical keyword research and attention to detail.
- Having unique activities pages are essential. Make sure these pages are also optimized to drive additional quality traffic to your website.
- Blogs are more important than social media sites in most cases. Have a blog on your website, but make sure you write about things that will create more interest in your property (top vacation tips for the area, best restaurants, seasonal activities, etc.)
SEO mistakes to avoid:
- Having duplicate title tags on your key money pages. Allowing poorly optimized or partially optimized web pages.
- Having one activity page with all activities listed as a long laundry list. Google likes websites that grow, so having unique activity pages becomes an essential element of your SEO strategy.
- Not having a blog on your website, and then, not blogging regularly. You should blog once a week on average, and remember it’s not necessary to write more than a couple of paragraphs each time. It’s the frequency, not the length of the blog that helps SEO.
- Focusing on social media and other trends when your website is not optimized correctly. Always take care of the basics first!
MISTAKE 5: Failing to be patient with your IM strategies. Profitable results take time. Make sure to hire a professional and give them your full support.
Best overall Internet marketing practices:
- Commit to spend what it takes to have a successful Internet marketing program. Have an IM budget for SEO, PPC, and link building.
- Don’t expect immediate results. It takes time to improve your visibility in the major search engines.
- Don’t start and stop your marketing efforts. Google, and the other major search engines, never sleep. You need to be committed to a long-term Internet marketing plan to achieve your goals.
- Hire a company that specializes in the hospitality industry and stay on top of what they are accomplishing each month.
- Only allow “white hat” IM tactics. There are no short cuts to long term success.
Internet marketing mistakes to avoid:
- Stopping your marketing practices during the off-season.
- Being impatient by expecting quick results. The money spent by using a reputable marketing company will pay for itself. However, long-term results are more satisfying if you start with realistic expectations.
- Failing to follow the advice given to you by your Internet marketing account manager. You know your business better than anyone. Similarly, let the SEO experts do what they do best. Your business revenue will only improve if you listen to the professionals and follow their advice.
Conclusion: There are many mistakes hotels often make when it comes to Internet marketing. Fortunately, these patterns are easy to identify and correct. The biggest mistake most businesses cause is not spending enough on their Internet marketing budget or thinking they can perform the complicated science of IM themselves. Make sure you hire an Internet marketing company that specializes in your industry so it can give your account the attention it deserves.
About the Author: This article was written by Bill Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer for RezStream, located in Denver, Colorado. RezStream sells reservation software, online reservation booking engine services, Global Distribution System services, custom website designs, and Internet marketing plans to hotels and independent inns. Bill has over 30 years experience in the hospitality industry with extensive knowledge in consulting, sales, support, website design and Internet marketing.